By Jacki Wood, written for the Nodaway News Leader’s special Title Town keepsake edition
While every moment, play or game might not have been perfect throughout the Maryville Middle School, Maryville High School and Northwest football season, the 60-0 perfect record stands out among all teams across the state and even the country.
But what if the season was more than the 60-0 perfect record?
Northwest Missouri Fellowship of Christian Athletes Area Representative Trevor Nashleanas, who works with many of the Northwest and Maryville coaches and athletes, said having a perfect record at all levels of football was a tremendous joy for him.
But, he said, the season was more than the wins.
“In light of Coach T’s retirement, Coach Bostwick’s death and the legal turmoil concerning a former Spoofhound athlete, these teams have truly stuck together,” Nashleanas said. “They’ve weathered the storms, fought for one another and matured as young men in the process. I know God has used it to bring people to Jesus, which is the biggest win of all.”
Nashleanas said his one focus is to help coaches and student-athletes recognize their need for the Lord, believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ and live for God.
“The focus of the (FCA) ministry has shifted from the athletes to the coach,” he said. “Our philosophy is to ‘impact the world for Jesus Christ by ministering to and through coaches.’ World famous evangelist Billy Graham once said that ‘one coach will influence more people in one year than most will in a lifetime.’”
For that reason, Nashleanas said, they now focus on 3-D or 3-Dimensional Coaching which includes physical, psychological and spiritual aspects.
“The goal is to help coaches identify a God-given reason for coaching beyond just wins and losses,” he said.
Maryville High School Head Coach Matt Webb and Northwest Missouri State Wide Receivers Coach Joel Osborn have been instrumental in helping to share FCA’s vision.
“Coach Webb and Coach Osborn are both outstanding men,” he said. “They lead with integrity, care with sincerity and coach with character. Both are very supportive of what the Lord is doing through FCA and both do their part to help players grow into men who will live and lead well. They, as well as other members of the Bearcat and Spoofhound coaching staffs, have a tremendously positive and lifelong influence on the men they coach, myself included.”
Nashleanas said the coaches have established player’s counsels for accountability and character development among their senior leaders or captains and some require players to read books about team unity, sportsmanship and character.
“This is important because a student is an athlete for a few years at most, but he or she is a citizen for a lifetime,” he said. “It teaches coaches to treat players with dignity and prepares athletes for success in life.”
The Spoofhounds have had an FCA Impact Program for the last two years, which the athletes lead for spiritual and character development through peer-to-peer relationships.
“It’s a volunteer program and most of the team participates,” he said. “I’d imagine that it’s a big part of the team’s success.”
He said he’s also seen significant changes in recent years among the Bearcat football players who are involved with FCA including a significant drop in off-the-field issues with alcohol and misbehavior, an increase in sportsmanship on the field, more team unity and a more intentional focus on what God wants them to do to contribute to the community during their time at Northwest and when they graduate.
“By God’s grace, they’ve turned to the Lord,” he said. “And with the help of FCA, (they) have become godly men who are serving the church and the city well.”
Nashleanas said the perfect 60-0 season is a fun rarity in sports that should be enjoyed and celebrated. But unfortunately, it can leave some with the expectation that perfection is something that can also be achieved in life.
“This only leads to pride and anxiety for those who momentarily achieve it but can’t ever keep it,” he said. “Or despair and shame for those who know they’ve already fallen short and don’t even want to try.
“God’s good news is that our ‘standing’ in his sight is not dependent on our performance or our perfection. Thanks to Jesus, we don’t have to beat ourselves up when our performance fails to meet God’s standards, because he already took a beating for us (the cross) to make up for our failures, shortcomings and disappointments.”
He said the athletes who believe this truth ultimately perform better because the pressure is off them.
“Jesus carried the weight of missed passes, fumbled footballs and impossible standards when he died on the cross,” he said. “On the field, perfection is achieved with a perfect record. In life, it is received by faith in what Jesus has done to give us his perfect record.
“A perfect record is a momentary pleasure worth celebrating until next season. A perfect record received in Christ is an eternal joy worth celebrating in God’s presence forever.”